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Survivor Guilt
"Oh my friends, my friends forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on..."
Marius, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", Les Misérables

You might be the Last Of Your Kind or someone else made a Heroic Sacrifice for you, but whatever the reason, you're going to feel a massive sense of guilt. An easy way to generate Angst. Expect this to occur when the Mary Sue dies or a husband survives the death of his family. Practically a guarantee in cases of Death by Childbirth.

Can also lead to the victim becoming a Death Seeker or Failure Knight. May cause Bad Dreams, Drowning My Sorrows, and various other ways to cope, while trusted friends and/or professionals plead with him to realize that he has nothing to beat himself up about. Contrast You Should Have Died Instead, where one survivor tries to evoke Survivor Guilt in another.

Truth in Television: Survivor's Guilt is a common symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, especially among suicide witnesses.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  
  • Ano Hana The Flower We Saw That Day: All of the main cast are lamenting and blaming themselves to some extent over the death of their friend Menma.
  • Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion suffers from this after killing Kaworu, which helps trigger the Mind Screw of the Gainax Ending.
    • Also a huge element in the characters of Misato and Kaji, who lived through a near apocalypse at a young age, the former owing said survival to a Heroic Sacrifice by her estranged father...
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Poor Viral.
    Viral: Don't you have the slightest idea? The depths of MY SHAME!? The humiliation of always being the sole survivor!? How much I had begged to take part in this battle!? JUST SO I COULD BE ABLE TO FACE YOU!?
  • Cosmo in Sonic X falls into this category. Her planet itself had been abandoned centuries earlier and Cosmo, a young plant based lifeform, grew up on board a Space Station which was then destroyed by the Metarex leaving her the only survivor of her clan - and continually haunted by the fact. Though the Metarex themselves later turn out to be members of the seedrian species too - the ones who stayed behind on their planet after the others abandoned it, where they became the space-faring monstrosities the Metarex.
  • Sara Werec of Soukou No Strain is spurred on initially by her survivor's guilt, her Big Brother Worship, and the question of "why?" that arose from both of the above. When Lottie figures out that the Omnicidal Maniac who killed her brother has let Sara live three times, and realizes Sara's true identity, she strikes out at Sara by giving her Carris' present to her, the last thing she saw him with before he was killed, to induce more survivor's guilt in her.
  • In Digimon Adventure, various members of the cast gets this after the death of various allies/bystanders. Digimon Tamers provides a more extreme example with Jeri.
  • Suzaku from Code Geass; his guilt comes from the fact that he killed his own father in a fit of despair (his old man was willing to sacrifice the whole of Japan rather than allow it to be under Britannia's control) and was never punished for it. Naturally, this lead to his becoming The Atoner and a Death Seeker.
  • Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima! seems to have some issues stemming from the fact that he, his friend Anya and his cousin Nekane were the only survivors of their Doomed Hometown, while everyone else was Taken for Granite. He's only recently starting to get over the fact that it wasn't his fault.
    • And then it's revealed that the attack on the village was apparently done by a group of evil senators specifically to kill Negi. So, in a roundabout way, it was his fault. He wasn't aware of it, but it didn't stop him from angsting any.
  • After the Kakyuu Princess dies in Sailor Stars, the Starlights, the last survivors of their planet, convene to strike back against Galaxia for no other reason than vengeance, stating that without her, they have no reason to live. Their attack fails and they get battered for their troubles, but not killed, leaving them to lament at how they've survived once more.
    • In the manga, it is reversed: the Starlights die, and then Kakyuu Princess levels up into Sailor Kakyuu to strike back against her killers. However, she still dies.
  • Gintoki from Gintama is more or less a goofy, laid-back Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, but it's also implied (often in the anime opening and closing credits) that he has some of this.
  • Kasumi from King of Thorn has a massive case of this, since she was selected to be saved from a deadly disease by being put into cold sleep while her twin sister Shizuku was not. She even tries to commit suicide so that Shizuku can take her place.
  • Kambei from Samurai 7, who hates the fact that as a leader, he alone manages to survive battles due to his sheer Badass nature even as the rest of his men usually die.
  • Fai from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has it bad! He was the last survivor of not one but two destroyed worlds, to say nothing of his twin brother sacrificing his life so that Fai could be free of the magical prison they were both trapped in. Neither the first destroyed world nor the death of his brother was actually his fault, but everybody blamed it on him anyway. By the time the second world rolled around he was perfectly capable of blaming himself without anybody else's help.
  • The writer of Grave of the Fireflies must've felt this way because, in Real Life, Setsuko was the only one who died. In the book he wrote and the film, Seita dies as well; showing the writers remorse that he hadn't died along with his little sister...
  • In CLANNAD, Tomoya was so stricken with guilt and grief at Nagisa's dying while giving birth to their daughter, he a) stayed distant from his daughter while she grew up because of the painful memories, and b) became certain that everything would have been so much better if he and Nagisa had never met in the first place (since she would still be alive (maybe) and he wouldn't have to deal with the painful grief). He comes to realize he was very wrong on both counts, and makes amends with his daughter and makes peace with his memories of his wife. And then, in the anime series version, their daughter dies, and Tomoya drops dead from guilt. But they all get better.
    • Kotomi's situation also fits this trope and narrowly skirts the edges of Deus Angst Machina; her parents died in a plane crash when she was very young, right after she had a fit and told them (untruthfully) that she hated them. And then she burned up an extremely important document, the only remaining copy of the last thing her parents wrote, in an attempt to bring them back. She becomes obsessed with her parents' death, and tries for years to reproduce the document, but never manages to; and she has trouble making friends because she's secretly terrified that she might make some other mistake and cause their deaths, too. She improves, though, when she learns that the thing she incinerated was a teddy bear catalog, and that her parents managed to mail her a teddy bear from the crashed airplane, because it was the only thing she'd ever asked them for.
  • A large portion of the cast of characters in Fullmetal Alchemist fit this trope.
    • Scar, whose brother died in his place.
    • Ed, who got away with the loss of just an arm and a leg while Al lost his whole body.
    • ANY person who was involved in the Ishvalan war and isn't one of the bad guys. Especially Roy, Riza, Alex, and Marcoh.
    • Hohenheim, who is the only survivor of a race of people, whose genocide was partially his responsibility.
    • Izumi (more so in the 2003 anime version), in regards to her dead child, who she thinks died twice because of her actions.
  • Gohan and Krillin both suffer this in Dragon Ball Z after all their comrades are killed in the battle with the Saiyans.
  • Terry Sanders Jr. in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team has it particularly bad: He earned the nickname "Shinigami" ("The Team-Killer" in the English dub, Bowdlerised to "The Reaper" for the daytime broadcast) because every team he was a part of would get wiped out save for him on their third mission together.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, season 4, BIG SPOILER Yami after the duel with Raphael-you know the one.
  • Ranma ½: One of the reasons why Ranma angsts about Akane dying. She dies twice, right after saving Ranma's life each time.
    Ranma: It would have been better if it were me. You should have let me die, but you're always butting in... Why did you have to get involved? Damn, Akane. You fool. Why didn't you let me go?
  • Cloud in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. His depression and antisocial tendencies returning is strongly implied to be due not to Aerith or Zack's deaths, but him surviving.
  • Yuya, a Wholesome Crossdresser in the hentai manga Secret Plot Deep, suffers from this along with being The Unfavorite, as his twin sister had died in a car crash and his parents went into deep depression as a result. Then one day, as his back-story reveals, his mother mistook him for his sister when he was coming out of the shower (his having long hair didn't help), and when he came home from school the next day, all his stuff was thrown out and his sister's stuff put back in place instead; he decided to go along with the charade in order to keep his parents happy. When he reveals this to his love interest, he's clearly unhappy with the situation, declaring that it should have been him that died instead of his sister. Said love interest disagrees.
  • Angel Beats! has Yuri, who had to deal with a group of robbers who broke into her house and told her to bring valuables to them quickly, or one of her three siblings would be killed every ten minutes. It took thirty minutes for the cops to come.
  • In the anime, Tokyo Majin has Aoi Misato, who feels bad about being unable to save a friend who got locked in a building that was on fire. It's worth noting that she had also been injured at the time, and has burn scars on her back as a result.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka is so horrified about Mami's death, she goes to her house and says "I'm sorry for being so weak." Taken Up to Eleven with Homura. She saw her best friend die to protect her, and prayed that she was the one to die instead of her. She went back in time and saw it over and over again, so it's no doubt she felt this again at some point.
  • In Naruto, Sasuke has a bad case of this. In his rant to the resurrected Itachi, he reveals that he wishes he had died with the rest of his family.
    • Kakashi is another example, being the only survivor of Team Minato, but mainly over the death of his best friend, Obito, whome he "talks to" when he visits the Memorial Stone Though in chapter 599 we find out that Obito didn't die and is in fact, Tobi. and then it gets worse The whole reason Obito did all this was because Kakashi failed to protect Rin, possible making his guilt even WORSE.
      • Then there's the fact that he's a witness to two suicides.
  • In Blue Exorcist it has been revealed that Rin actually has this. Though he tends to avoid it...or not.
  • Though everyone from The Voynich Hotel's Sleuth Brigade was affected by Peace's death, Vixen and Leader were hit hardest. The former because she was her rival in Leader's affections, the latter because he stepped on the landmine that Peace threw him out of the way from.
  • One of the core elements of Attack on Titan, with characters struggling to cope with the massive losses that result from being members of a Red Shirt Army. There isn't a single character that hasn't lost a comrade, friend, or loved one at some point in the story, and humanity in general struggles with knowing they survived at the cost of thousands of refugees being sent off to die by the government.
    • Armin suffered this as he watched Eren being eaten before his very eyes after saving him. He simply shut down and it took a while before he snapped out of it.
  • Rurouni Kenshin - as a young child, Kenshin witnessed three older girls use themselves as shields for him in a bandit attack, and this left such a huge scar in his psyche that it goes onto influence his life decisions from that point on.
  • The titular character in Porco Rosso may have changed in to a pig due to his guilt of being the only survivor of his squadron.
  • Due to living a Crapsack World, this is common in Seraph of the End. Notable examples include Yuu, who was the Sole Survivor when everyone at his orphanage was massacred and admits that sometimes he thinks he should've died with the rest; Yoichi, whose older sister died defending him from vampires and who now lives frustrated with his own weakness; and Mitsuba, whose squad leader took a fatal hit for her, caused by her own actions, and is thus harsh on anyone who reminds her of her past self.

     Comic Books  
  • An interesting subversion in Paradise X: Hyperion (Marvel's Superman expy) had his alternate Earth nuked (in an expy/alternate version of Kingdom Come), and now he desperately wants to die, but can't find anything that will kill him. Other characters assume he's suffering from survivor guilt, but Hyperion is the last of his species—he's used to it. He just wants to rejoin his lover, Zarda (Wonder Woman), in the afterlife.
  • Speaking of Kingdom Come, Magog blames himself for the obliteration of millions. It IS his fault, but seeing the Cable Expy have a BSOD was a little surprising.
  • Smax from Top 10. The entire reason he left his home, and went as far away as Precinct 10, was that he couldn't save a little girl from a dragon. Her handprint was permanently burned onto his chest, which didn't exactly help matters.
  • Y: The Last Man. So much.
  • Speedball's survivor guilt over his being the only one of his teammates to survive the Stamford explosion is responsible for his transformation into Penance. Having shrapnel embedded in his spine was also a contributing factor to this transformation.
  • Superman has been accused of constantly doing good works partly because he feels guilty for being the last survivor of his entire planet. The extent of this varies on the character's portrayal. The Pre Crisis Superman left Krypton as a toddler and had total recall, so he could remember his childhood home very clearly and always felt horrible about what happened to it. The Post-Crisis John Byrne version had no memory of Krypton, and when he finally learned about it, it turned out to be a dystopia that wasn't worth missing. However, in most incarnation there are other survivors, such as Supergirl and the inhabitants of the Phantom Zone.
    • Spoofed in issue #0 of Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink by John Kovalic and Christopher Jones. A therapy session with Superman Expy Captain Omnipotent ends with the realization that the Captain is a perfectionist overachiever because of his Survivor Guilt, striving for the approval of his dead parents. A jubilant Captain Omnipotent frees himself from his heroic obsession... causing him to ignore a half-dozen crimes and disasters occurring around him.
      "...my never-ending battle with the forces of malice is actually my id and ego clashing with my superego's need for nurturing, matched by an inner struggle with the guilt of being the only survivor of a doomed race!"
  • Some versions of Batman have him as a victim of lifelong survivor's guilt from childhood for surviving his parents' murder as if he failed them in some way. A Pre Crisis story, "To Kill a Legend" has The Phantom Stranger offer him a chance to get that off his chest by saving another Thomas and Martha Wayne on a parallel world, and unknowingly inspiring that Bruce to one day become Batman for psychologically healthier reasons.
    • Also Commissioner Gordon in Dark Victory after he survives an attack by the Hangman, but one of his Untouchables does not.
  • The main reason why Teen Titans' Beast Boy is constantly joking and acting like a class clown? He's got a massive case of this; cracking jokes is how he stays anything remotely sane. The Terror Of Trigon made hay out of this by having him hallucinate an Evil Counterpart that was ripping the hearts out of and then eating his friends and family.
  • Depending on the writer, X-Men's Emma Frost had a major case of this after Mountjoy murdered The Hellions. Then she became the sole survivor of the mutant massacre in Genosha, and exhibits varying degrees of mild depression to full on psychotic behavior
  • Played with in Preacher, when Spaceman visits the Vietnam Memorial.
    So tell me somethin'. How come you shitheads never write?
  • In Fantastic Four's spin-off FF, The Thing and Franklin Richards are suffering from this after Johnny Storm died, something that shocks Spider-Man when he becomes a member of the team, mostly because Ben Grimm is deathly serious..
  • In Ultimate Fallout: Spider-Man No More, The Ultimates are hit with this hard over death of Spider-Man: Tony Stark gives Aunt May and Gwen Stacy a home in Europe to start life away from the tabloids, Nick Fury tells Mary Jane that she has every right to publish the truth and that it was his fault that it happened and, worst of all, Steve Rogers quits being Captain America because he gave him "The Reason You Suck" Speech and he was proven horribly wrong.
  • Most of the characters in The Walking Dead have varying degrees of this.
    • Part of Rick's is because he and Carl ran away from The Governor's assault on the jail after he saw Lori murdered.
    • Andrea has it because her former lover Dale is dead and she never told him that she'd fallen in love with him.
  • Many of the Runaways suffer from this, to varying degrees. Nico Minoru used to have survivor's guilt over the death of former leader Alex Wilder (who was also her boyfriend), but since he brought about his own death by betraying the team, that's probably faded by now. Chase Stein, however, is still haunted by the death of his girlfriend Gertrude Yorkes, who died in order to save him from being killed by Geoffrey Wilder. Karolina Dean feels guilt for her beloved Xavin taking her place in order to answer for the crimes committed by Karolina's parents. Presumably, Victor Mancha also feels survivor's guilt after watching his mom burn to death at the hands of his father, Ultron. Of course, arguably the worst case is the survivor's guilt suffered by Klara Prast, who got caught in an explosion with Old Lace, and then trapped under Old Lace's corpse. Even several years later, the sight of a raptor causes her to suffer flashbacks, and even when Old Lace turns up alive, she's one of only two Runaways who doesn't run up to hug her (the other was Nico, who was too busy taking advantage of the commotion to spy on Hank Pym and Tigra, who were in turn plotting to take Klara and Molly away from the Runaways.)
  • Harmony Smurf in The Smurfs story "Smurphony In C" (and its Animated Adaptation) feels guilty to be the only surviving Smurf after he accidentally caused what appeared to be his fellow Smurfs' deaths with the turlisiphone (shazalakazoo in the cartoon show) and, finding that there is no cure for the death sleep that he put them into, kicks the magical instrument into the fire and then proceeds to play a final farewell dirge. Fortunately with the destruction of the magical instrument, Harmony was able to revive his fellow Smurfs by playing music from his own trumpet.
  • In an early JSA issue, when several of the heroes are confronted with their personal demons, Jay Garrick's turns out to be survivor guilt. He was the first Flash and super-speed hero in general, and that job has a high death rate in DC Comics, so he's outlived a lot of them. The most painful loss was Barry Allen, the second Flash, who had been his protege and a dear friend. (The third Flash, Wally West, was also believed dead at this point... and Jay would go on to lose more successors, even if some managed to come back. He's had it rough.)
  • Several of the survivors of Avengers Arena suffer this, but special mention goes to Hazmat, who is the only surviving member of the Avengers Academy kids that were sent there.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Aunt May gets hit with a pretty big case of this when Uncle Ben dies, explaining that it's on top of the grief she feels for Mary and Richard (Peter's parents), and later Captain Stacy's death. After that last death she winds up having to see a psychologist to help her with her feelings on it. While still strong and capable, she's portrayed as realistically emotionally-unstable throughout the book, which is a major reason Peter hides his identity from her at all costs. She naturally lost it when Peter died in her arms, screaming "Not him too!"
  • Tony Stark has been suffering this ever since his origin story. He really believes that he should have died instead of Doctor Yinsen, the man who inspired Tony to do better and sacrificed himself so Tony could escape their captors. In one story Tony starts hallucinating due to recently discovered Green Rocks that poison the "soul" for lack of a better term and all of his hallucinations involve Yinsen. In one of them Tony imagines a universe in which Yinsen was the one who escaped in the Iron Man suit while Tony was the one who died, and everything and everyone is better off because of it.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In System Restore, Togami feels personally responsible for what happened at his party, and confides in Hinata that he feels it was his failings as a leader that led to the deaths of Komaeda and Hanamura. He even states that he feels he should have died instead due to his failure.
  • In the Emergency! fic "Lost and Found'',Roy is almost kidnapped by a serial killer and torturer, but John pushes to go instead and spare Roy. Roy believes John has to be dead until he is found alive, but even after, Roy wrestles with a non-death related type of this; massive guilt because he knows John suffered 18 months of hell that he should have went through, if he could even have done what John felt he had to just to survive. And John is told that Roy died from being shot, and wrestles with this type of guilt until he finds out the jerk lied to him to torment him more.

    Film 
  • The premise of Ordinary People.
  • Zac Hobson has a case of this in The Quiet Earth after discovering that he might just be the last human alive—compounded by the fact that he was part of the research team that caused the mass extinction in the first place- and spends several weeks going insane from loneliness and guilt. He gets better after encountering two other survivors.
  • In Stand by Me, Gordie has a bit of a case of survivor's guilt over the death of his older brother, not because he was involved in it in any way so much as because he is The Unfavorite and thinks his parents would prefer it if he'd been the one who died instead of his brother.
  • Joe Enders, Nicolas Cage's character in Windtalkers, had his entire unit killed when he decided to follow orders and told them to hold their position rather than retreating. He was the only one who survived and he was awarded a medal and promoted for his actions. To make the situation even more messed up, his new job might require him to kill the code talker he is charged with protecting rather than let him fall into enemy hands. Joe is a Death Seeker and one step away from being suicidal.
  • In Repo! The Genetic Opera, Nathan Wallace wishes that he had died instead of his wife, Marni. As mentioned in the song "I Didn't Know I'd Love You So Much":
    "Sometimes I'd stay up all night/ Wishing to God that I was the one who died"
  • Det. Del Spooner of I, Robot has this as a reason for hating robots. During a car accident where he and a girl were trapped in cars sinking into the lake, a robot saved him but not the girl. The robot's claims that Spooner had a better chance of survival than the girl (whose odds were statistically non-existent) and since the robots brain is a difference engine, it logically went after the one with a better chance of survival, a reasoning that Del hates since he believes that a true human would gladly sacrifice their life to save the girl no matter how futile.
    • To be noted is a scene where he wakes up and points a gun with his head... with his finger on the trigger.
  • A deleted scene from Unbreakable has Bruce Willis' character having a Shower of Angst while hearing reports of the train crash, of which, he was the lone survivor.
  • A scene that was never filmed from Superman Returns was to have given this to Superman... as he gazed on Ground Zero in New York City. The writers' idea was that his thought process would essentially be If I had been here, maybe this wouldn't have happened.
  • In Pitch Black Riddick is briefly struck with this near the end after Fry is killed when she goes back to save him, if his screaming protests of "Not for me! Not for ME!" are any indication.
  • In I Miss You I Miss You there is a heartbreaking scene where Tina addresses this. She was running just one step ahead of her twin sister when her sister was hit by a car and killed. Afterward she has nightmares where her sister wants them to trade places, and sometimes hears her sister's voice in her head.
    Cilla's voice: I don't want to die, Tina. I want to live.
    Tina: (sobbing) I want to live too, Cilla. I want to live. Let me be. Let me be. I want to live, Cilla! If I had only watched where I was going. If only I had seen the car.
  • The Guardian has Ben Randall, who is feeling this after being the only survivor of a botched rescue.
  • The film adaptation of Schindler's List has shades of this. After his Heel-Face Turn, Schindler financially ruins himself bribing Nazi officials in an effort to save Jews from the Holocaust. After he escapes, he forlornly notices that hawking his getaway car could've saved more lives, too, and the Nazi party pin he wore could've bribed someone for just one life.
  • Discussed in Dr. Strangelove regarding an After the End nuclear scenario. President Muffley raises the question paraphrasing Khrushchev; "Won't the living envy the dead?" but Strangelove easily dismisses the concept, pointing out that joie de vivre will prevail.
  • In Pacific Rim, it's implied that Chuck has this where his father chose to save him over his mother when a Kaiju attacked Sydney, which he resents Herc for.
  • Interestingly, Gojira has a case of this for the the titular monster; a survivor of the atomic bomb. Whilst normal guilt is normally only destructive to onesself, Godzilla has a rather more drastically external case of it.

    Literature 
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Tonks starts becoming Wangsty, and this is attributed to survivor guilt after the events of the previous book where her mother's cousin Sirius Black dies. However, it turns out that she has an unrequited crush on Lupin (as he's afraid of hurting her).
    • Harry goes through this here and there throughout the series; in Goblet of Fire he said, "I told Cedric to take the Cup with me." And the enormous guilt he feels in Deathly Hallows over the people who died protecting him.
    • Also in Deathly Hallows, we find out that Dumbledore is a textbook case.
    • This trope is the reason Sirius Black blamed himself for the deaths of James and Lily Potter and the muggles killed by Peter Pettigrew.
  • I Am Legend.
  • An awful lot of people from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, actually. (Granted, recently the novels tend to kill off everything from main characters to Mauve Shirts with impunity...)
    • Specific examples from the X-Wing Series. Wedge Antilles has largely, though not entirely, handled this, but it pops up sometimes while he bears The Chains of Commanding and considers the friends he's sent to their deaths. Kell Tainer has incredible angst over failing to save a wingmate and being honored for the attempt. Myn Donos. And Tyria Sarkin is the last of her branch of the Antarian Rangers, sort of semi-Jedi, and she always feels that she's not nearly good enough to live up to them.
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 novel 13th Legion, Kage throws away his pardon by starting a brawl at the end. In the subsequent novels, Schaeffer, more than once, points out that this was what motivated him, as he was the last of the four thousand the legion started out with.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Sister Joaniel's Back Story included being the sole survivor of a direct hit on a field hospital.
  • Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts series is based in this trope. The Tanith Ghosts are the only survivors of their planet's destruction and it motivates and haunts them. The Verghastite Ghosts chose to join the regiment after their hive city was declared a Necropolis and abandoned in the wake of a Chaos attack that many of them fought in as civilian militia.
  • This is the plot of the Lurlene McDaniel book The Girl Death Left Behind, as the main character's family dies in a car wreck (on the 4th of July, no less) and she struggles with the aftermath.
  • Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway watched his friend die in World War I and suffers from hallucinations.
  • In the Last Herald Mage series, Vanyel has a major case of this over the death of his True Love: not only is he heartbroken, he thinks he can never measure up to Tylendel, either as a new mage or in his aunt's affections (Tylendel was a sort of surrogate son for his aunt). He turns out to be quite wrong on both counts.
  • Honor Harrington, frequently. She has a habit of going up against impossible odds, prepared to make a Heroic Sacrifice... and surviving. But that doesn't mean that everyone else who went into battle with her will survive, and she beats herself up over it. As the series goes on, she becomes better at dealing with it. It helps that these situations are often ones in which everyone should have died - regardless of how few survive, they wouldn't have without her.
    • Berry Zilwicki is also said to be dealing with this after surviving an assassination attempt aimed at killing her in At All Costs.
  • Taran experiences this in Taran Wanderer, the fourth book of the Prydain Chronicles, when he's unable to save the life of the shepherd Craddoc.
  • Averted with Baron Harkonnen in Dune, where Leto tries to poison Harkonnen with a gas in a fake tooth and ends up taking out everyone in the room except for Harkonnen (he managed to evade it at the last second), and his immediate reaction is joy that he survived, and everyone else is dead.
  • In Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, this is explicitly brought up as afflicting Rabo Karabekian's Armenian father, but not his (equally Armenian) mother.
  • Present in full force in Soldiers Live, the last of the Black Company books, largely due to the Kill 'em All mentality.
    • The title is actually a reference to the concept. "Soldiers Live" is short for "soldiers live, and wonder why." In context, this is the narrator musing over why men younger than himself are cut down while he survives long enough for his age to be bothersome.
  • In Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants Robert feels this way after the death of Arvid on the California trail.
  • Word of God is that the main theme of Mystic River is survivor's guilt, mainly from Sean and Jimmy, who avoided being abducted and abused by two pedophiles when they were kids while their friend Dave was victimized, and from Sean because he managed to escape the neighborhood and make a good life for himself as a cop.
  • One of the many things Tina has to deal with after her twin sister Cilla's death in "I Miss You I Miss You". Tina was running just one step ahead of Cilla when she got hit by a car and killed, and it could just as easily have been Tina who died.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen has this in spades.
    • Peeta on the other hand seems to have shockingly little of this. However this could be because the story is told through Katniss' eyes and we never know exactly what Peeta is feeling.
  • Trader belief in The Circle of Magic holds that the sole survivor of a disaster is the source of the bad luck that caused the disaster. Consequently, they are ritually Unpersoned and exiled by the Trader people. This happens to Daja at the beginning of the series, after she's the sole survivor of a shipwreck.
    • Sandry has a good bit of survivor's guilt over the smallpox plague that left her orphaned, and after the second book Tris has to deal with having personally destroyed an attacking pirate fleet, and watched hundreds of innocent galley slaves drown in their shackles as the ships sank. In the Circle Opens arc, Daja gets hit with it again after learning that the firefighter she'd given handmade magical safety equipment to was the insane arsonist who'd been setting the fires, and her gear just enabled him to firebomb a hospital. Briar, of all people, seems to have escaped this... until the Circle Reforged arc, which reveals that his travels in the East ended up in a war zone. Good grief.
  • Dag in "The Sharing Knife" suffers from this after losing his first wife and most of his comrades in a gory battle.
  • In Of Fear and Faith, August deals with this after the events of Fear the Reaper, as he feels responsible for the high death toll of that battle since he was in charge of the battle plan.
  • In the Mediochre Q Seth Series, Mediochre seems to have this over Pigeon, his WWI comrade. He seems to have defaced his own Victoria Cross medal at some point after Pigeon's death with the words "For You But Not For Me" (a macabre reference to The Bells of Hell).
  • In More Than This, Seth feels responsible for his brother Owen's kidnapping, especially after he finds out Owen was killed by the kidnapper.
  • In San Diego 2014, Lorelei Tutt has a bad case of this, even after thirty years. She's the only known survivor of the zombie outbreak at ComicCon 2014, because her case of adolescent attitude prompted her father to send her out of the convention center to their hotel room. She got out of the convention center minutes before infected arrived.

     Live Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who, The Doctor gets darker due to his entire race (apart from The Master, but he didn't know about him at the time) being killed off.
    • Guilt compounded by the apparent fact that he caused whatever destroyed the other Time Lords (along with the Daleks) in the first place, as indicated in the episode "Dalek":
      Doctor: Your race is dead! You all burned, all of you! Ten million ships on fire—the entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second!
      Dalek: You lie!
      Doctor: I watched it happen. I made it happen!
      • He didn't simply cause it. In The End of Time, it becomes clear that he killed the Time Lords on purpose, to prevent them from destroying reality. In a case of Fridge Brilliance, this is obvious in retrospect: after the Doctor ended the Time War, legions of Daleks survived, but only one other Time Lord.
    • This trope is arguably the defining personality trait for the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, although Ten is a lot better at hiding it.
      • In The Waters of Mars, the Tenth Doctor finally snaps. As he walks away from the Mars colony as it's being destroyed, knowing that it, being a fixed point in time, cannot be saved, he hears the screams of the perishing people in his headset. Eventually it gets too much, and the Doctor, utterly terrified of becoming the single survivor once again, turns back and, in a frenzy, tries to take control of the laws of time. Things go From Bad to Worse, and his actions ultimately end up having no effect anyway.
    • The Eleventh Doctor also experiences it from time to time. Unless Gallifrey is restored at some point, it's likely that all Post-Time War Doctors will experience it once in awhile.
  • Surprisingly well-done in Supernatural. Dean's been feeling this since Faith but it was ramped to 1000 when his father died. Season Two bends and damages him so much that, by the time All Hell Breaks Loose rolls around, he's been reduced to a broken, martyred little boy who has a pathological need to keep Sam (who, contrary to his and his Dad's belief, is actually a big boy now who might have been at peace) alive.
    • Also, Sam for Jess in Season One and John for Mary his entire life. While Dean's situation is Survivor Guilt taken to the most extreme level, their guilt was portrayed as no less tragic.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the episode "The Conscience of the King," Kirk is revealed to have this over having been spared during a eugenicist massacre as a teenager.
    • Commodore Decker from "The Doomsday Machine" goes into a Heroic BSOD after losing his entire crew to the titular Planet Eater.
    • Although both Harry and Chakotay survive the destruction of the Voyager in Star Trek: Voyager (at least in an alternate timeline), only Harry really feels this. Or rather, he represents the external guilt, and Chakotay represents the internal guilt.
    • Chakotay and Torres also experience this to varying degrees when they learn that all the Maquis in the Alpha Quadrant have been wiped out.
  • That Family Ties episode about Alex's friend who died when Alex hadn't gone with him.
    • A similar episode about the suicide of one of Mallory's friends. In one scene, she berates herself for not realizing how depressed the girl was.
  • Tyzonn in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive takes the "vengeance" route after his rescue squad, including his fiancée, gets murdered in action. Also "Doggie" Cruger of Power Rangers S.P.D., who has vowed never to fight again after losing his people and his wife in a genocidal war. (Both women turn up OK at the end.)
  • In House at the end of season four, there is a sense of this after House survives a bus crash.
  • In Caprica Lacy experiences a great deal of guilt and regret over the fact that she was almost on the train that exploded in the first half hour of the pilot, killing her best friend Zoe Graystone (along with two other important characters).
  • Shows up a lot in the Babylon 5 universe; including Crusade, sufferers include Sinclair, Sheridan, Galen and Gideon.
  • Owen on Grey's Anatomy. His unit was wiped out in Iraq, with him as the lone survivor. This gives him PTSD in the form of vivid nightmares.
    • Also Amanda the girl that George pulled out from in front of a Bus. She survives with minor injuries, while George is killed. For a month or so afterwards, Amanda spent every day sitting in front of the hospital, uncertain of how to carry on with her life.
  • Teen Wolf:
    • Derek obviously blames himself for his family's death, as Kate Argent seduced him to get to his family.
    • In his hallucination, Stiles reveals that he feels guilty for his mother's death and believes that his father blames him.
  • Elena, Bonnie, Matt and Tyler suffer from this on The Vampire Diaries.
  • In The Twilight Zone TOS episode "King Nine Will Not Return", James Embry feels guilty about not being with his crew mates when their bomber was lost in action during World War 2. He wasn't on the mission because he was seriously ill.
  • "Serenity," the pilot episode of Firefly shows Captain Malcolm Reynolds as a man of faith, smiling in the face of death in the Battle of Serenity Valley, cheerfully telling a subordinate that God will save them because they're too pretty to die. Moments later, this trope hits him hard, and he never fully recovers.
  • NCIS carries the heavy implication that Gibbs suffered from this from his wife and daughter being killed by a Mexican drug dealer (whom he got revenge by killing him in what was heavily implied to be under a felony). The episode "Life before his eyes" alleviates the guilt somewhat when his wife (or rather, a figment of her while he was in Limbo) reveals what would have happened had they survived.note  Mike Franks also reveals that, had Gibbs not killed the aforementioned Mexican drug dealer, he would have been far worse off (he would have been a drunk recluse who coldly drives away even his friends from helping him) after Riley McCallister points out his earlier felony sending him into a Heroic BSOD in the same episode.
    • Gibbs also suffers from this when Kate was killed by Ari, who was after him. His hallucination of her literally yells at him, "Why did I die instead of you!?"
  • Andrew felt this way in the Buffy finale and actually asked "why didn't I die?" Part of him was afraid to die while part of him wanted to be killed as punishment for aiding The First and killing Jonathan.
  • In the Mash, episode, "Trick or Treatment," Hawkeye has a patient who is starving himself because his buddies in a foxhole were killed during an artillery burst while eating. The patient survived by pure chance because he ate quickly and went back to the chow line for seconds and now cannot even look at food because of his guilt. Hawkeye sets up an appointment with his psychiatrist friend, Dr. Sidney Freedman, for him to help.
    • And Hawkeye infamously went through a Heroic BSOD because a mother on a bus full of refugees suffocated her own infant rather than risk the child's crying alerting the enemy of their presence
  • Josh Lyman on The West Wing. When he was a kid he survived a house fire that killed his older sister and he still sees a therapist about it some thirty years later.
  • The very title of the Law & Order: UK episode that dealt with Matt Devlin's death. The opening sequence showed his partner Ronnie Brooks speaking to his AA group, clearly tormenting himself, feeling that if he had just gotten to him sooner, he could have prevented him from being shot, perhaps even taken the bullet for him (The sad irony is Matt died doing exactly this for his friend/colleague Alesha Phillips and the young witness in their case). Later, while talking with Alesha, he laments that unlike him, Matt never got a chance to get married and have children. Later still, while talking with his killer—who in another sad irony is himself displaying this trope, as he was acting out of misplaced vengeance over the death of his brother—he correctly deduces that young man loved his brother so much that even now he would take his place in order to bring him back—mirroring his feelings about Matt..
  • In Primeval, this seems to be the source of Becker's Heroic BSOD in the beginning of season four. He's the only member of the field team left after Abby, Connor, and Danny are lost in the past (and presumed dead) and Sarah dies while on a mission with him to get them back. He doesn't really take it all well.
  • Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1 has apparently been a victim of lifelong survivor's guilt from watching his parents' die in an accident when round six, thinking he could have done something to save them if given another chance.
  • Stargate Atlantis: McKay develops a bad case of this when Griffin chooses to drown so McKay can have a chance at survival in "Grace Under Pressure." Rodney later feels extremely guilty because he'd been pretty mean to Griffin and there was no reason Griffin should have sacrificed himself.
  • Call the Midwife: Julia Masterson in Series 2, Episode 6, the only one of her father's seven children not to die of TB (which took her mother as well). She explicitly tells her dad, "I'm sorry I'm the one who didn't die."
  • Parodied in How I Met Your Mother. When Robin's boyfriend, Kevin (a psychiatrist) can't take the dysfunction of the True Companions anymore, he rattles off a bunch of psychological afflictions they demonstrate. Among them? Survivor Guilt... and the flashback showing it was Lily admitting that she watched Survivor without her husband.

    Theatre 
  • In Rent, Mark uses this as his defense as for why he got Married to the Job: he's one of the few people in the circle that doesn't have HIV or AIDS, and will likely outlive most of his friends.
  • In Les Misérables, Marius suffers from survivor's guilt after being the only one to survive the barricades. It's made worse by the fact that he doesn't know if they've accomplished anything with their deaths. "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", his mourning song for his friends, is essentially Survivor Guilt: The Song.
    Marius: Oh, my friends/my friends, don't ask me/what your sacrifice was for...

     Video Games  
  • The World Ends with You: The Reapers try to instigate this in Beat over Rhyme. I'm not sure if it works or not...
    • Neku. Shiki? Mm. Joshua? Suuure. Well, when he thought he was dead.
  • Max Payne has this in spades because he failed to save his wife and baby girl from being murdered by V-head junkies.
    • In the bad ending of Max Payne 2, he's in for a lot more since everyone dies, most of them by his hand. The good ending, on the other hand, has Mona surviving, so he might be pretty okay.
      • Unfortunately, Max Payne 3 makes the good ending for Max Payne 2 non-canon, and by the time of the third game Max is an even bigger ball of self loathing and destructive tendencies.
    • Even in the opening to the second game, Max is wracked with guilt for not having been punished for all the killings he committed in the first game.
  • In the Warcraft trilogy War Of The Ancients, Brox has the Death Seeker variation.
  • Fiora in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword is traumatised after losing her whole squad of Pegasu Knights, though her sister Florina quickly helped her snap out of the worse part of it. She still has traces of said guilt in her supports with others, though.
    • Harken in the same game, as the only survivor of Elbert's knights. He becomes first a Death Seeker and then a Failure Knight (after finding Eliwood) as a result.
    • Oifey takes it really hard in Genealogy of the Holy War after unknowingly leaving Sigurd and the rest of his army to die
    • Cordelia's first appearance in Fire Emblem Awakening has her a traumatized wreck after a squad of her fellow knights sacrifice their lives so she can escape a Plegian ambush. This stays with her all throughout the game, some of her pre-battle quotes and her supports with the Avatar make reference to it.
  • Tales of the Abyss:
    • Luke. Somewhat more understandable since he feels guilty for surviving a cataclysm he caused, which wiped out a whole town and all its inhabitants. Ten thousand of them.
    • Anise after the death of Ion also counts. To use Anise's exact words: "I should've...I should've died instead..."
  • Hits on Lamia Loveless of Super Robot Wars, coming off from being the last surviving of the Shadow Mirrors, that she takes part in destroying. She attempted to initiate a self-destruct code in result, but her friends usually come just in time to stop her and persuade her to live out the rest of her life.
  • An important theme in Fatal Frame 3, causing the Tattooed Curse in guilt-ridden survivors and trapped into searching the Manor of Sleep for their loved ones, only to be spirited away by the curse or the malevolent ghosts.
  • Otacon in Metal Gear Solid 2 after the death of his step-sister, where he laments that he's always the survivor. This also hearkens back to the death of Sniper Wolf in the first MGS, who he had tried (and failed) to protect from combat-related death, and herself suffered from this trope.
    • Big Boss also suffered from this in regards to killing The Boss.
    • Ditto Fortune, who lost her father, husband, and unborn child, and can't die herself because of her extreme luck (which was really due to a force field).
  • This triggers the Face-Heel Turn of Elpizo, Big Bad of Mega Man Zero 2. He's the only survivor of Operation Righteous Strike, a disastrous attack of La Résistance upon Neo Arcadia.
  • Virgil from Xenosaga is this twice over, as revealed in Episode Three. Turns out why he hates Realians so much was because his squad was destroyed by Realians. Later, he fell in love with a Realian, who was later killed by other Realians. This caused an extreme rejection to love and, by extension, Realians.
  • Between all her psychological problems, this is the biggest one in American McGee's Alice. And in Wonderland, this guilt is personified by the Jabberwock, and the cutscenes make it clear that confronting him terrifies Alice more than any other boss/trauma. Appropriately enough, the player will agree.
  • This shows up a few times in Dragon Age: Origins. The mind reading Guardian of the Ashes of Andraste reveals that Alistair feels this way about surviving Ostagar. Alistair straight up admits that he thinks everything would have been better if he had shielded Duncan from the killing blow and died in his place. The Sloth Demon of The Fade Dream even invokes this to keep Wynne imprisoned.
  • Merrill in Dragon Age II. Depending on whether or not your Warden from the first game was Dalish, she lost one or two of her closest friends to a cursed Magic Mirror - and even if one of them became a Warden, they haven't seen each other since. Her arc consists of her struggle to fix the mirror and get something good out of it (through very dangerous means), and she admits that she still sees their faces in crowds sometimes. It gets worse in Act III - she not only loses her teacher, but possibly her entire clan.
  • Kaidan or Ashley after Virmire in Mass Effect 1, and Jack in Mass Effect 2 (although you only hear the full story if you romance her).
    • If you play Shepard the right way, s/he also shows this. S/he really suffers from this in Mass Effect 3, no matter what dialogue you choose.
    • In addition to the guilt that she felt for handing Shepard's body to Cerberus, it is VERY heavily implied (especially in a romance) that Liara felt unbearable guilt for surviving while Shepard was killed - and for escaping the Shadow Broker while Feron was captured. She spends two years trying to hunt down the Broker for Feron's sake, and learning he's alive sparks a Roaring Rampage of Rescue.
    • In Garrus' Loyalty Mission in Mass Effect 2, Sidonis, the man who betrayed Garrus' team is shown to suffer from this. By giving him the chance, he reveals that he wasn't The Starscream, but was forced into doing so by mercenaries and is filled with incredible guilt over his actions. Upon hearing the story, Garrus is unable to execute him, which Sidonis repays by delivering himself to C-Sec.
    • The romance option for Jack in 2 delves heavily into her motivations, eventually revealing one of her partners had died to save her life. Afterward she found a recording from him explaining he had fallen in love with Jack and wanted to use the money from their jobs to buy them a normal life. The guilt messed her up even more than Cerberus and life had already.
    • Han Olar on Noveria, when asked how he escaped the Rachni, says he "killed her", meaning he closed the tram door on a co-worker and watched her die. His letter in Mass Effect 2 also indicates he wished he had died in her place.
    • An Asari commando suffers heavily from this in Mass Effect 3 after killing a young girl who was crying, to avoid attracting the attention of the Eldritch Abomination that infested her farm. There are implications, too, that she thinks Shepard's aware that this girl was sister to one of Shepard's crew. As the war heats up, Shepard can requisition a gun for her, which she promptly uses for suicide... leading the player to feel a touch of Survivor Guilt, too.
    • The krogan as a race suffer from this to an extent due to the genophage leaving 99.9% of their young stillborn. Even though enough survive to theoretically sustain their population, the sheer number of dead hatchlings left their entire race fatalistic.
  • General Alister Azimuth in Ratchet & Clank was left in behind by the Lombaxes as punishment for giving Tachyon access to Lombax technology. He is determined to bring them back, even if it means risking the universe.
  • Implied with Milla in Psychonauts. Straying off the designated path in her Mental World leads you to discover that she used to work in an Orphanage of Love, until it burned down one day when she was out shopping. Going even further reveals that she has a group of monsters called Nightmares locked up in fiery cages, continually hissing things like "help us" and "you let us die". Word of God says she's mostly over it, however, which explains why they're locked away instead of roaming free like in other characters' minds.
  • Getting over this is a major theme in Rule of Rose: first Jennifer had to come in terms with surviving from an airship accident that claimed her parents, and then being the only survivor of the orphanage massacre instigated for her sake.
  • Samus in the Metroid series has a hefty dose of this, exacerbated by the fact that every time she starts to come to terms with the tragedy that is her past, it happens all over again.
  • From Crisis Core- "Men cry not for themselves, but for their comrades."
    • Sephiroth was strongly implied to have suffered through this when his friends had died (or in the case of Genesis, believed to have died).
  • In the iOS game Starbase Orion (a port of Master of Orion), two of the leaders you can hire have this as their backstory. Colonel Hanifer is a human starship commander and the only survivor of humanity's first extrasolar battle. Naturally, he feels guilty about being the only one to make it out. He increases damage resistance for all ships in his fleet. Governor Fve Bgeeep is a rabbit-like alien whose homeworld was attacked and his race destroyed while he was stuck on an unarmed asteroid tug. Being the Last of His Kind, Fve Bgeeep has become extremely but Properly Paranoid. Any planet to which he is assigned cannot be starved into submission (obviously, he has food stockpiled), and no enemy spy remains undetected in the system. Also, the starbase in the system is converted into an extremely-powerful one called "Fve Bgeeep's Burrow" (it has 20 plasma cannons, among other defenses, while you can normally put no more than a dozen turrets on a normal starbase).
  • Half the party in Radiant Historia. Raynie and Marco are the sole survivors of a cave-in that killed the rest of their mercenary company and Raynie keeps questioning why they survived, Rosche is so crushed after his entire brigade is killed that he goes into a 10-Minute Retirement, and Eruca's overwhelmingly guilt about the fact that Ernst was chosen as the sacrifice instead of her leads her to almost kill herself trying to perform the ritual alone to avoid "killing" him a second time.
  • In Telltale's episodic adventure game, The Walking Dead, Doug falls victim to this if the player chooses to save his life at the cost of leaving Carley to die. He even calls out the trope himself.
    Doug: I guess it's just that survivor's thing...
    • In season 2, it's revealed Clementine has this regarding the death of Lee (and possibly Omid) when speaking with Luke at the table.
    Clementine: People die because of me sometimes.
  • By the end of Tomb Raider, Lara is plagued by a massive case of survivor guilt from self-blame over getting everyone aboard Endurance stranded on the island in the first place, feels responsible when Roth, Grim and Alex all sacrifice their own lives for hers, and insists on trying to rescue the copilot of the downed rescue plane because against Roth's objections because it was her signal that lured them in for Himiko's control of the storms to down them. Not once does she claim Never My Fault, and is incredibly hard on herself throughout the game as a result.
  • Resonance of Fate has Zephyr, a teenage boy who killed 30 children after a series of experiments drove him to insanity. He was to be killed by a hired gun, when God ''literally'' interfered and made him immortal which also restored his mind. Zephyr...didn't take that well.
  • Craig Boone in Fallout: New Vegas is suffering this after being ordered to massacre innocent refugees at Bitter Springs, and losing his wife to Legion enslavement, therefore being forced to Mercy Kill her. Courier: "Why isn't your punishment over?" Boone: "Because I'm still alive". Other possible examples include Rose of Sharon Cassidy, the sole survivor of an attack on her caravan, who has turned to Drowning Her Sorrows, and Raul Tejada, a pre-War ghoul whose little sister was killed and mutilated by raiders.

     Visual Novels 
  • Shirou of Fate/stay night, though it only really becomes prominent in UBW when people actively question him about why he wants to save everyone, if that's what he really wants to do and what he does that he has fun doing. Relevant part of this trope is that he feels guilty about being unable to save anyone else at the fire, had given up and was saved by a fluke when no one else was. He feels he doesn't actually deserve to have fun and instead what he should be doing is more training that nearly kills him every night.
    • Because of that, unlike normal people, Shirou is unable to create his own happiness and feels "happy" only if people around him are also happy. Which leads him always putting the needs of others before his own. Zigzagged when it's revealed that Shirou didn't actually become like this out of guilt, but simply because he had wanted to find the same happiness Kiritsugu had felt on saving Shirou.
  • Hanako of Katawa Shoujo also survived a fire at the cost of her family, but for a slightly more... personally traumatic reason than Shirou.
    "The fire happened when I was eight years old. It was night, and I was sleeping when it started. I... curled up into a ball... when the fire swept over me. My mother... tried to shield me. Th-that's the only reason... I lived."
  • Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth carries tremendous guilt over surviving the DL-6 incident, made worse by his belief that he killed his father.
  • The Fan Sequels Corpse Party D2: Depths of Despair and Fatal Operation follow a timeline where Yoshiki, Yuka and Satoshi all wound up dead after their visit to Heavenly Host. Ayumi and Naomi both suffer from survivor guilt, each with added complications.
    • Not only does Ayumi feel responsible for getting all of them trapped in the cursed dimension in the first place, her attempt to fix things afterwards led to Satoshi's death when he saved her from the botched ressurection ritual.
    • Naomi personally blames herself for Yuka's death because of how her suddenly screaming in fright distracted Satoshi at the wrong time. In addition, she thinks that Satoshi was Driven to Suicide over losing Yuka.

    Webcomics 

     Web Original 
  • Anyone who wins a Survival of the Fittest game, for obvious reasons.
  • Tasakeru: In the first month of his service as a samurai, Zero's squad of rookies was ambushed by a fanatical Death God cult. Seventeen died and more were injured, but Zero survived without a scratch. This resulted in his fleeing to Tasakeru and becoming a Ronin.
  • In Worm, Chapter 19.7 reveals that this is what caused Tattletale's trigger event.

     Western Animation  
  • Gunrunner was a Transformers Autobot commander. His entire squadron was slaughtered, except for him, due to his pretender shell. Worse, he promised them all they would get out alive.
    • Depth Charge from Beast Wars was the only survivor of a Maximal colony destroyed by Ax-Crazy Predacon, Rampage. Rampage slaughtered everyone else and even ate some of them. As a result he made it his personal mission to hunt Rampage down and kill him.
    • Nightscream from Beast Machines displays signs of this, particularly in the episode "Survivor." Within the episode, Nightscream and Optimus discover an underground, organic cave within Cybertron that houses numerous fossilized animals. Optimus is overjoyed, as it implies that Cybertron was once an organic world. Nightscream, on the other hand, becomes enraged/heartbroken, commenting that there were enough fossils for the entire Maximal population to scan, which would have saved them from Megatron's takeover (Megatron's scanners cannot detect Cybertronians with beast modes).
    • G1 Bluestreak is described as the only survivor of his city, and presumably developed his nervous habit of constant chatterboxing to fill the silence.
  • On Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang goes through this phase in the episode "The Storm".
    "The Fire Nation attacked our temple. My people needed me, and I wasn't there to help."
  • The Justice League Unlimited episode "Hereafter" features an interesting version. Superman is flung far into the future, where the Earth is a wasteland under a red sun. The sole surviving human is the immortal Vandal Savage, who reveals that he ended up destroying humanity in one of his plans for world domination. Guilty for what he did, he assists Supes in returning to his own time and stopping him.
    • From the same episode, back in the present day, the League and Toyman think that Superman is dead. Superman got hit by shoving Batman and Wonder Woman out of the way of Toyman's ray. Wonder Woman gets homicidal over survivor's guilt, and Toyman only survives thanks to The Flash.
  • Demona from Gargoyles is the poster girl for this trope. Surviving the near extermination of her kind, compounded by her being immortal so she can't even join her dead kin unless she lets Macbeth kill her, has left her with the need to use humanity as a scapegoat because facing that sorrow and guilt scares her.
  • Cleveland from The Cleveland Show. When his ex-wife Loretta dies, it forms a rift between him and his wife because of how broken up he is over it. Eventually he figures it must be survivor's guilt, because he'd repeatedly survived what killed her: Peter destroying his house, which caused his bathtub to slide off the second floor and shatter. (He survived this 4 times in Family Guy and 3 times in his own show, but the first time it happened to her, she broke her neck).
  • Sym-Bionic Titan: Lance experiences this after Octus is killed protecting him from an electrical Mutraddi. He and Ilana spend the next two episodes trying to revive him.

     Real Life  
  • A well known characteristic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as noted above.
  • Anne Frank often wrote about having nightmares of her friends imprisoned in concentration camps while she felt safely hidden. Now consider that Frank's family did end up in those camps eventually. Now go a step further, and remember that her father survived, but she did not. Nor did anyone else that was in hiding with her. Nor any of their friends or family who didn't escape before the German occupation.
  • A lot of war veterans experience this.
    • Spike Milligan, creator of The Goon Show and a man described as 'the Godfather of British comedy fought in World War II with several of his co-stars. Lets just say that, from reading his war diaries, there was a very good reason his comedy shows were filled with colossal explosions which never hurt anyone in any lasting way....
  • Family and loved ones of those who commit suicide.
    • And people who attempt suicide and survive may get a VERY twisted form of this, because either they couldn't even manage to DIE properly, they feel like they've been cheated out of relief, or they feel they "chickened out" and have now burdened their loved ones with financial and emotional stress—the exact thing they wanted to avoid.
  • School bullying. While some 80% of the bullies end up later in prison and their victims all too often in suicide, it leaves nobody unscatched. Those pupils lucky enough to be bystanders may develop severe case of Survivor Guilt.
  • Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy, suffered this after the JFK assassination. He revealed in an interview how much he regretted not moving a second faster and taking the third (and fatal) bullet himself.
  • Actor Telly Savalas, before his rise to fame, worked as a lifeguard, and never forgave himself for the drowning death of a man on his watch.
  • The Arlington National Cemetery was created in the aftermath of the American Civil War, intentionally invoking this trope: it was built in the backyard of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
  • Many of the survivors of the Titanic disaster would get this (in large part due to listening to the victims freeze to death). But in particular, Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line and was on the RMS Titanic, suffered a long term depression and blamed himself for what happened on the doomed vessel, being quoted as saying he felt he didn't deserve to live.
    • William Randolph Hearst (among others) defamed him after the disaster by blaming him for the insufficient number of lifeboats (ignoring the fact that there wasn't a single ocean liner that didn't) and making him out to be a villain out for his own skin who was the first on the lifeboats, doing nothing to help rescue people, when in reality he actually assisted many people into the boats and only left on the very last lifeboat to actually get launched.
  • A couple of years ago, a woman came home to find her two teenaged daughters brutally attacked and raped, with the eldest already dead. Years later, after the killer had found religion and wanted to atone for what he did, and was waiting on death row and requested to speak to the mother and surviving sister. When she did, all she could ask was why did she survive when her sister didn't. Turns out that, as well as dealing with the obvious trauma, she was also suffering a massive case of Survivors guilt.
  • This is often the case with genocide survivors, and is partly why, save for the case of the Holocaust (Basically the only one that got widespread recognition), you generally don't hear a lot about them from the survivors until fifty years later sometimes, if at all.
  • Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein suffered from this after the September 2008 plane crash that killed everyone on board except for himself and Blink One Eighty Two drummer Travis Barker. Sadly, it never got better for him as he died of a drug overdose only eleven months later.
  • This painting. You don't need an explanation or a story to go with it. It speaks for itself.
  • Waylon Jennings lost a coin flip with Buddy Holly, and was forced to take a bus to Minnesota while Holly took a plane. When Holly joked "I hope your bus freezes!", Jennings joked back "I hope your damn plane crashes!". Tragically, the plane did crash, killing Holly and everyone else aboard on "The Day The Music Died". Jennings was haunted by this for many years.
  • Director Roman Polanski had lived without a mother ever since she was gassed by Nazis in 1939, and 30 years later in 1969, the Manson Family senselessly murdered his wife, actress Sharon Tate and her friends. Polanski had blamed himself for her death. But given how many people despise Polanski because of his personal life (he cheated on Sharon many times, and never stopped, and the crime he would commit in 1977), they wish the Manson Family would have killed him instead, and would have been heroes for doing so.
  • Ulysses S. Grant felt this since he was originally supposed to go with Abraham Lincoln to the Ford Theater the night he was shot, but bowed out at the last minute. Grant believed that he would have been able to stop John Wilkes Booth had he been there. At the funeral Grant wept profusely, and later stated unequivocally that Lincoln was the greatest man he'd ever known.

Solo SequenceSolitary TropesThere Is Another
Supernatural AngstSadness TropesTearful Smile
Surprisingly Sudden DeathDeath TropesSuspect Existence Failure
Villainous GluttonMotivation IndexThere's No Place Like Home

alternative title(s): Survivors Guilt
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